I’m Ready, Mama – Independent Sleep

Cricket and I have co-slept from the beginning, and I’ve heard it all.

“You’ll never get her out of your bed.”

“You have to teach her to self-soothe.”

“She’s never going to sleep on her own.”

Yes, Cricket is four. She sleeps in a double bed in her room, and I sleep with her. I’ve heard all of the co-sleeping criticisms multiple times. I’ve been told over and over that I’ve ruined her ability to sleep.

But here’s the thing. I didn’t. And I can say that, not with a defensive glare, but with a serene smile, because here’s the truth, the honest truth:

Sleep is a developmental milestone. When a child is ready to fall asleep on their own, they will.

Sure, the AP books all say this, but it’s hard to believe when what seems like the entire world tries to convince you that sleep training is a necessity.

But it’s not just the books that say they will sleep on their own when they are ready. I’ve seen it with my own eyes with both children.

I nursed both of my babies to sleep every single night from the time they were born. Then, one day, at around 18 months, nursing stopped helping them fall asleep. They still nursed before bed, but it didn’t put them to sleep. After a strange and confusing week, both of my girls learned to nurse, lay down beside Mama, and fall asleep. On their own. There was never a need to teach self-soothing, whatever that is supposed to mean. No need to “train” them to sleep. They were ready. They knew sleep time was a time of comfort and peace, so they were able to lay down knowing they were safe and comforted.

But wait, some folks might say. You’re still sleeping in bed with them! How’s that going to work out?

With the Grasshopper, I got Hyperemesis Gravidarum. I never got the chance to find out whether she would be able to learn to sleep on her own because the sickness took away my night time parenting abilities. With Cricket, though, we’ve been able to go at her pace, and while I sometimes doubted, my trust in her ability to know when she was ready has paid off.

A few weeks ago, we were in the car coming home from the grocery store (because all big conversations seem to happen in the car), and Cricket announced that she wanted to fall asleep like a big girl. It was completely out of the blue. We were listening to the Frozen soundtrack and she just piped up with, “Mama, I’m ready to go to sleep like a big girl now.”

And she was. She likes patterns, so we do a pattern. Every other night, I tuck her in, kiss her head, and say goodnight. And that’s it. No training. No tears. She just closes her eyes and goes to sleep. She knows that if she needs me, I will come to her immediately, so she feels safe trusting that Mama will be right there.

To all the tired mamas out there, keep the faith. Trust your kids. They will get there. It’s hard sometimes, I know. Cricket used to wake hourly in the night some times. But it’s not a forever thing. It will pass. Cuddle those babies. It’s what they need.

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No, really. I’m sleep deprived.

It is amazing how completely different my two girls are.  Their personalities, their likes and dislikes, and their habits.

Right now those differences are most apparent in the realm of sleep.  The Grasshopper was such an easy sleeper.  She had her moments.  Like with all babies, sleep comes and goes.  In retrospect, it was predictably cyclical, though.

We (and if you’re a new parent take notes) expect to see sleep regressions around the time of growth spurts and milestones.  Four months and eight months are a very big deal.  Milestones and growth spurts all converge during those times and sleep takes a hit.  A big hit.

But it passes.  I remember with the Grasshopper wondering if I was doing something wrong.  I remember thinking, “Gosh, do I have to sleep train her?”  I wondered if she just wasn’t able to sleep because I never taught her to do those things that my coworkers were talking about.  I remember words like “self soothe,” “bad habits,” and others whirling around my brain.

Thank heavens for the Kellymom.com forums.  They stay absolutely on message and make it very clear that you can no more “train” a baby to sleep than you can “train” a baby to walk and talk.  Sleep, Kelly says, is a milestone that many kids don’t reach for several years.

From Kelly’s article Sleeping Through the Night:

Your baby will begin to comfort herself and to sleep for longer stretches at her own developmental pace. If your baby wants to nurse at night, it is because she DOES need this, whether it’s because she is hungry or because she wants to be close to mom. Sleeping through the night is a developmental milestone (like walking or toilet training) that your baby will reach when she is ready to. Trying to force baby to reach this before her time may result in other problems later on.

So I just plugged along through those mercifully short sleep regressions with the Grasshopper, and, just like Kelly promised, the constant waking passed.

Thank goodness I know that now.  Cricket is really giving me a run for my money.  Her 4 month sleep regression merged into a 6 month sleep regression and when we hit 8 months last week, all bets were off.  We are deep into the 8 month sleep regression with no end in sight.

Nursing to sleep. No longer the magic trick it used to be.

She’ll take an hour to nurse herself to sleep at night.  She wakes hourly to nurse.  This week we’ve added a new element to the mix.  She’ll nurse to sleep starting around 8:30 PM, but then when she’s finally asleep and letting go and I’m thinking I can drop off to sleep too, those little eyes pop open, and now YAY!  It’s happy baby fun time!  She crawls all around, practices pulling up on the side of the crib we have Macgyvered to our bed, climbs over me to try to get to the exciting looking alarm clock, chews on my shoulders, sticks her fingers up my nose and in my ears, and just generally has a cheerful and noisy time.

Happy Baby Fun Time! Standing rules!

This went on from 9:45 last night to 11.  Finally, she went to sleep.  And then woke up every hour afterwards to sit up and crawl in a circle and then nurse again.  At 5:30 AM, she decided it was time to greet the morning.  So up she got.

No point in going back to bed.  I had work to get ready for.  So up I got, too.

I fantasize about a 4 hour stretch of sleep.  I can’t remember what that’s like.

Thank goodness for the Grasshopper.  Thank goodness she taught me that this will pass and things will get easier.  Thank goodness for cosleeping!  Right now I can nurse her and then just roll over and fall back asleep.  Imagine if I had to get my tired self up, haul my carcass down the hall, try unsuccessfully multiple times to put her down in the crib without waking her, haul my carcass back down the hall to my bedroom, and then try to fall asleep?  Good lord!  That sounds like a nightmare!

I didn’t talk much about it when the Grasshopper went through her wakeful cycles.  I didn’t have the same kind of supportive community, and I wanted to avoid the inevitable, “Well, maybe it’s just time to let her cry. I let my kids cry and they turned out just fine.”

I’m more confident now, and I know from experience that this isn’t a forever thing.  So now, when people ask, I’m open about it.  I say, “We’re smack in the middle of the 8 month wakeful period.  It’s really hard, but I know it will pass, and I know that she needs me right now.”  Sometimes I follow with an, “I’m so glad we’re cosleeping.  It makes things so much easier for all of us.”

At any rate, I am seriously sleep deprived now.  I think I’m handling things pretty gracefully, but wow.  I’m tired.

Which is probably why this post is so disjointed.  Maybe tonight will be the night that she sleeps.

Sweet dreams are bound to come soon, right?

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